Choosing a vendor for your direct mail printing and mailing is an important choice. Ultimately, it will dictate the success of the campaigns and the viability of the channel as a whole.
When evaluating vendors, you need to take your time to carefully research each of the available options and understand the nuances between them. In modern direct mail printing and mailing, there are different types of vendors to choose from.
And as you do evaluate them, there are certain traits and qualities that you should be seeking out.
It’s important that you choose a vendor with a modern approach. There are plenty of direct mail vendors that are operating the same way as they did in the 1980s. But that leaves a lot of meat on the bone.
There are direct mail automation features and integrations with digital campaigns that can not only increase the effectiveness of direct mail campaigns but also help you to supplement campaigns through other channels as well.
A true omni-channel presence is required for dealing with modern customers.
In this article, we will cover some of the most important considerations to take into account as you are evaluating available direct mail printing and mailing vendor options. Look for vendors that possess these qualities, to ensure that your campaigns are successful in that you work with a professional partner.
Table of contents
A Record of Direct Mail Printing and Mailing Growth
As with evaluating any vendor or potential partner, looking for a track record of positive results is probably the most important step that you can take.
Any company that has been providing their direct mail services for a decent amount of time should have a number of case studies and results from previous clients that they are able to point to. Not having those kinds of materials available should be seen as a giant red flag, particularly for older companies.
Great case studies and testimonials is a sign of reliability.
But simply having those materials is not enough on its own. You need to look at what the materials say about the service that they provide as well.
Have they worked with companies that are similar to your own? Have they helped design and deliver campaigns that are similar to the ones that you will be sending? Have they worked with other companies in your industry?
At the end of the day, your direct mail vendor should be able to point to a record of consistent growth, in terms of both revenue and total printing and mailing volume. Businesses grow for a reason. Usually it is because they’re doing a good job for their clients.
These are all important questions that speak to the experience and viability of potential partners.
Quality Processes & Materials
Just because a company can print and send direct mail campaigns doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re particularly good at it. If your printing and mailing vendor hasn’t kept up with the latest advances in technology, they’re probably using antiquated processes that rely on manual interfaces and/or email to process campaigns.
Do you want to convey professionalism? Then test out your vendor with a sample campaign.
Before working with the direct mail vendor, it is a good idea to ask for a sample. Specifically, you’ll want to run a small campaign that is an exact replica of your real campaign. It shouldn’t be painful or hard to do.
If the process is smooth and the materials are up to your standards, you can check that box off.
After all, no one wants to send a campaign only to find out that they had diminished results because the quality of the materials that they used was low.
Educational Materials & Onboarding Services
Of course, you’ll want to seek out vendors that provide exceptional customer service to their clients. That is a given.
Another great way to evaluate direct mail printing and mailing vendors is to look at the quality of the onboarding services and educational materials that they provide.
Direct Mail is a channel with a lot to consider. With all of the recent advances in technology, there’s a tremendous amount to learn in order to get the maximum ROI from your campaigns. This means offering high-quality onboarding and educational materials that teach them about the most important aspects of the channel.
This helps both sides. For the vendor, there is less that they need to explain on sales calls and customer service requests. For you, it means that you are able to get up to speed more easily and better understand the vendor’s workflow and how it will fit into your own.
Companies that have a lot of educational materials on hand tend to be more professional and have better relationships with their customers. A company that invests in content to help their customers versus one that does not make for an easy decision.
Questions to ask include:
- How do you onboard new clients?
- How long until I get my first campaign out the door?
- Can I self serve after I learn how to build campaigns?
- Can you show me your educational materials?
The level of involvement that you require may dictate the direct mail vendor that you ultimately choose to work with.
You don’t want your direct mail campaign to be floating out there disconnected from the other marketing campaigns that you are currently running.
There are many integrations that would be helpful for modern companies — but CRM software integration is the absolute bare minimum.
Your customer relationship management software is perhaps the most important software inside of your business. There, you want to have a single source of information that effectively tracks all of the engagements that you have with each customer in the system.
A direct mail vendor that does not offer CRM integrations could be problematic. That would mean that there are touch points out there that are not being tracked.
Integration with popular CRM systems should be something that every modern direct mail vendor should provide to their customers.
Direct Mail Automation Features
Additionally, you may want to look into direct mail printing and delivery vendors that offer complete automation systems for your direct mail campaigns.
Utilizing automation can take a lot of the manual work of running campaigns off of your plate.
For instance, using mail automation platforms, you can design and send direct mail sequences over a set period of time.
Direct mail automation software also often integrates with popular platforms so that you can insert new touchpoints into existing digital campaigns. This opens up a whole new world when it comes to direct mail advertising — allowing you to effectively use the channel to nurture current leads and customers prior to the sale.
There are many benefits to choosing vendors that offer direct mail automation software. These typically include:
- No Minimums. These platforms often don’t have a minimum printing run required. When you work with other vendors, they may require a large investment to begin working with them. Direct mail automation software platforms, however, may allow you to send smaller campaigns in order to test out the platform. This is ideal for companies that are just starting out with direct mail marketing and want to give it a try without making a large investment in the channel.
- No Need to Wait for Salespeople. When you know you want to try something new, you don’t want to be held up by salespeople and processes that can take weeks for an actual campaign to come to fruition. When you choose direct mail automation vendors, you can have a campaign designed, printed, and sent to your audience within just a few days. There is no need to go through a complicated sales process or onboarding process when the vendor is primarily a software provider. There may be some engagement with the company on how to use the software and the ins and outs of the solution, but not much beyond that.
- Transparent Pricing. Too often Direct mail vendors will hide their true pricing on the other side of a sales meeting. This is not only aggravating and unnecessary, but it slows down the entire process of getting a direct mail campaign out. When you work with mail automation software providers, the pricing is usually transparent and listed on their website. This allows you to evaluate whether or not the solution would fit into your budget quickly, and without wasting time in the process.
- Integrations. Integrations are critical for modern direct mail marketing campaigns. In fact, the more Integrations that a direct mail vendor offers, the better. At the very least, as we mentioned earlier in the article, you should look for direct mail vendors that, at minimum, integrate with your customer relationship management solution. Being able to integrate with other marketing automation software would be a huge benefit as well. Postalytics, for instance, integrates with Solutions like HubSpot, Salesforce, and Marketo — all of which offer deep marketing automation features.
- Tracking. A big misconception when it comes to direct mail is that direct mail campaigns are not trackable in the same way that a digital campaign is. Of course, this would have been true in previous decades and is one of the reasons why the myth persists. However, Direct Mail automation platforms allow you to track engagement through pURLS, which are personalized URLs that allow you to see when your recipients have visited the websites listed on your mailers. Then, you can connect that engagement to your CRM software or marketing automation systems to influence and inform other campaigns.
Quality Design Options
Design is a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to the success of direct mail marketing campaigns. Not only can quality designs be expensive (they are one of the heaviest costs of direct mail campaigns), they can be difficult for companies to navigate when they do not have any experience in the channel.
Platforms like Postalytics allow you to design your direct mail campaigns directly inside of the platform. You can upload your own designs or use some of the pre-made professional templates to quickly design and split-test different designs.
This makes designing and launching a new campaign simple. There is no back-and-forth waiting for acceptance from many different stakeholders. You simply choose the design, add the copywriting, and send the campaign off to your potential customers.
Ability to Scale…Quickly
Whether you are running direct mail campaigns for the first time or are a brand that is experienced and sends thousands of mailers every month — you need to make sure that any vendor that you are considering working with has the ability to scale to your potential.
It’s a serious concern. If direct mail turns out to be hugely profitable for your business, you’re going to want to scale your efforts. And you want a vendor that can scale with you. When the time comes to scale up your campaigns, you don’t want to find out that the vendor you are currently working with can’t handle it. Switching vendors at that point would be a detriment.
Ask the following questions:
- How many locations do you have?
- How many mailers can I send without having to change my process?
- What provisions are in place to handle bad weather or unforseen circumstances?
Finding the Right Direct Mail Printing and Mailing Vendor is Critical
Finding the right direct mail vendor is absolutely critical for any company that is taking the channel seriously. You’ll need to find people to help you design, print, and mail your campaigns efficiently.
The tips that we have outlined on this list should provide you with a simple but effective way to evaluate vendors and provide you with a list of things to look for in them.
If you are interested in working with a direct mail automation vendor that allows you to integrate with popular CRM and marketing automation platforms, sign up for your free Postalytics trial today.